Taylor

Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor runs during the second half of the Badgers' 24-22 win over Iowa on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

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MADISON, Wis. — Mathematically, Iowa still has a sliver of a chance to win the Big Ten West Division, but realistically Saturday's 24-22 loss at Wisconsin ended the Hawkeyes' dreams of reaching the Big Ten title game.

Here are are five things to ponder following a loss to the Badgers which knocked Iowa down five spots to 23rd in this week's Associated Press poll:

1. The good

Where would Iowa be without the consistency of Keith Duncan?

With three field goals Saturday, the junior walk-on has kicked more field goals this season than any player in Hawkeye history.

He has connected on 22-of-25 attempts and his kicks of 24, 40 and 39 yards on Saturday pushed him past the previous Iowa best of 21 established by Rob Houghtlin in 1987 and tied by Nate Kaeding in 2002 and Kyle Schlicher in 2004.

Duncan's work at Camp Randall Stadium also kept Iowa in a game that would have otherwise been over long before Nate Stanley's failed two-point conversion attempt.

The Hawkeye field goal unit has been a difference in wins over Iowa State and Purdue and gave Iowa a chance against the Badgers and added to a collection of 10 field goals in 11 attempts on the road.

2. The bad

Iowa continues to need whatever it can get out of Duncan because its offense continues to struggle to reach the end zone.

Including Nate Stanley's two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes have scored 22 touchdowns through nine games including 10 on the ground and 12 through the air.

A year ago through nine games, Iowa had an identical number of offensive scoring drives -- 44.

Last season, the Hawkeyes had scored 31 touchdowns and 13 field goals by this point in the season compared to the 22 touchdowns and 22 field goals this year.

Of those 31 touchdowns nine games into the 2018 season -- 13 had been on carries and 18 had been on Stanley passes. Iowa went on to finish 2018 with 46 touchdowns and 17 field goals.

3. The ugly

Iowa tried a couple of wrinkles to slow Wisconsin's ground game, but the four-linebacker look that included Djimon Colbert, Barrington Wade, Dillon Doyle and Jack Campbell on Saturday did little to prevent the Badgers from enjoying success.

The Hawkeyes struggled to prevent the slow grind that is Wisconsin's offense, a clock-chewing approach that takes its yards as they come and has no problem settling for short, consistent gains that keep the chains moving and keep the ball out of opponents' hands.

Tackling issues were part of the equation for Iowa.

So was Jonathan Taylor, who was responsible for 250 of the 300 rushing yards Wisconsin piled up on the ground.

"They were getting a good push and he wasn't going down on first contact,'' Iowa defensive end Chauncey Golston said. "It was a little of both.''

That led the Badgers to 474 total yards of offense, the most allowed by the Hawkeyes since Penn State compiled 579 yards in its 2017 walk-off win over Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

The Badgers averaged 6.5 yards per play on the ground and 6.7 overall, more than enough to stay alive in the Big Ten West title chase.

"I think we played worse than we have in the past. We didn't play to our standards,'' Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa said.

4. The aftermath

Minutes after Saturday's loss, Iowa players were pushing forward.

They have little choice.

The season-long surprise of the Big Ten West is staring the Hawkeyes in the face on the schedule.

Minnesota visits Kinnick Stadium with a 9-0 record at 3 p.m. on Saturday, the Floyd of Rosedale appetizer to an Illinois team that is idle this week and has won its last four games to become bowl eligible for the first time in Lovie Smith's tenure.

At 6-3 on the season and 3-3 in the Big Ten, Iowa players understand their season is at a crossroads.

"Anything can happen and we signed up to play all the games on our schedule, no matter what the implications are after the game or the outcomes,'' running back Toren Young said. "We're really just looking forward to the next opportunity.''

5. The challenge

Flipping the page from one game to the next as quickly as possible is perhaps the biggest challenge Iowa faces and something and coach Kirk Ferentz touched on following Saturday's game.

"They all count the same. They're all important. You never want to lose a game. That's what you fight for. It's part of the risk any time you go out there and compete,'' Ferentz said.

"So, it's disappointing. But, one thing about doing this is if you can't handle that, if you can't recover from that, it's going to be even more disappointing in the future.''

Coaches and upperclassmen will be charged this week with preventing that from happening.

"It's up to us to keep the younger guys moving forward,'' defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore said. "We've been through it before. You have to get ready for the next one.''

Ferentz considers Sunday and Monday to be the most critical days for teams trying to rebound from a tough defeat.

"The most important thing is how we handle the next 24, 48 hours,'' he said. "Obviously we have another big challenge coming to us next week and the two weeks after that.''

This article originally ran on qctimes.com.

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